Educating Moldova’s next generation to prevent human trafficking.

Young Moldovan student Anna started to get concerned when her nephew was communicating with a stranger on the internet. Her nephew admitted to having a middle-aged friend from America, thinking it was all quite innocent and there was no danger.

However after some investigating from Anna’s brother, who’s with the police, they discovered this person was just a liar who was looking for an opportunity to harm her nephew. The young boy was shocked and admitted that he never thought something like this could happen to him. Quite disturbingly many young vulnerable people across Moldova aren’t as fortunate as Anna’s nephew and fall prey to human trafficking after meeting someone online. This is why the ministry, Beginning of Life, supported by TEN, is seeking to educate Moldova’s young people to the dangers of trafficking.

Thanks to Beginning of Life’s schools’ initiative Anna, together with some other students in her school, has been part of a series of prevention training sessions highlighting the dangers of this issue. As well as the dangers of online chatting; the other main challenge facing Moldova is that poverty is leading to many people fleeing the country in search of a better life.

“Most young people here want to escape from the country, so we are preparing them not to be trapped but be sustainable and responsible no matter if they decide to leave or to stay,” explains Serghei Mihailov, Communications Coordinator of Beginning of Life.

The need to educate and empower the next generation is so important as poverty and high unemployment caused hundreds of thousands of Moldovans within the last 20 years to leave in search of better fortunes in Russia, Turkey and EU countries.

Serghei says this mass exodus is creating a huge challenge of ‘social orphans’ being left behind: “This phenomenon is extending more and more in Moldova. More than 170,000 children in our country are left behind. Children are growing up being deprived of parental care and supervision, lacking normal life skills. Within the last five years in Moldova the suicide rate among children raised fivefold. Serghei explains how they are tackling these issues through education: “Since the very beginning, our vision was not only to help people who already are in a critical situation, but also to prevent this problem before it gets started. This is possible through education and awareness. Our team was one of the first who began prevention work in Moldovan schools. Teachers were very open to our initiatives, because the social and moral crisis in our country in that period was deep and extended.”

Beginning of Life, which began in 2000, has been developing a program to combat human trafficking and sexual violence in Moldova for the past nine years. In February 2009, House of Change was established as a rehabilitation and reintegration centre for victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. In subsequent years, the team and their range of projects have expanded greatly.

They now run three Urban Centres providing alternative education and youth development, a Psychological Art Studio, providing art-therapy, as well, Dream House—a prevention centre for teenage girls at-risk from rural communities—and a Humanitarian Aid Centre. In 2014 they also started the Be Different Program for vulnerable teenagers, which is now run in three cities. Also at the end of the same year they launched a social enterprise, Art Story, offering vulnerable women and survivors of exploitation stable employment.

Serghei concluded: “Our goal is to empower these young people to grow and become leaders and professionals in any sphere where they will be people who will take responsibility for the situation.”